Fifty hospitals in the United States are charging uninsured consumers more than 10 times the actual cost of patient care, according to research published Monday.
All but one of the facilities are owned by for-profit entities and the largest number of hospitals – 20 – are in Florida. For the most part, researchers said, the hospitals with the highest markups are not in pricey neighborhoods or big cities, where the market might explain the higher prices.
At North Okaloosa Medical Center in Florida uninsured patients are charged 12.6 times the actual cost of patient care.
Community Health Systems operates 25 of the hospitals on the list. Hospital Corporation of America operates 14 others.
“They are price-gouging because they can,” said Gerard Anderson, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, co-author of the study in Health Affairs. “They are marking up the prices because no one is telling them they can’t.”
He added: “These are the hospitals that have the highest markup of all 5,000 hospitals in the United States. This means when it costs the hospital 00, they are going to charge you, on average, ,000.”
The researchers said that a typical U.S. hospital charges 3.4 times the cost of patient care.
Adding to a consumer’s frustration is the fact that it is virtually impossible to find out ahead of time from the hospital how much a procedure or stay is going to cost. Once the bill arrives, many consumers have a very hard time deciphering it.
Uninsured patients, who are often the most vulnerable, face skyrocketing medical bills that can lead to personal bankruptcy, damaged credit scores or complete avoidance of needed medical care.
Researchers said the main factors leading to overcharging are the lack of market competition and the fact that the federal government does not regulate prices that health-care providers can charge. Only Maryland and West Virginia set hospital rates.